Are Brazilian youth offenders getting "the worst of both worlds"?: The Superior Court of Justice's interpretation of the Statute of the Child and Adolescent

13 Dec 2016

Gutierrez Cornelius, Eduardo (University of São Paulo, Brazil)

Brazilian Statute of the Child and Adolescent is considered a reference among youth justice professionals and scholars. However, they claim  the  judiciary  fails  to  enforce  the  Statue.  According  to  them,  youth  offenders receive harsh punishment and have little procedural protection. This  situation  is  known  as  the  "worst  of  both  worlds",  because  it  means  youth  are  treated  with  the  historical  informality  that  has  guided  juvenile justice,  while  simultaneously  being  punished  in  a  harsher  fashion  (especially  with  incarceration),  as  is  the  tendency  in  adult  justice.  Thus, both  the  historical  rehabilitative  approach  of  youth  justice  and  the  procedural  protection  of  the  adult  system  are  rejected.  As  the  Superior Court of Justice (SCJ) usually has the final word in the interpretation of the Statute, this presentation examines the Court's 43 youth justice landmark decisions. It aims at determining if the SCJ does reject petitioners' claims in both  procedural  and  substantive  cases.  Also,  it  assesses  if  decisions'  outcomes vary according to the seriousness of cases and the solution the Statute  presents  to  cases.  In  order  to  do  so,  an  adaptation  of  qualitative  compared analysis is employed.

Eduardo Gutierrez Cornelius is finishing his M.A. at the University of Sao Paulo's Sociology Department. He has a law degree from the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul, where he worked in the Law School's Pro Bono Program, providing legal services to court-­‐involved youth.